Skip to main content

Kidnap victim files complaint, blasting feds' 'inexcusable' lack of oversight

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 7:20 PM EDT, Thu September 22, 2011
A picture of Jaycee Dugard before she was kidnapped sits framed in her stepfather's home.
A picture of Jaycee Dugard before she was kidnapped sits framed in her stepfather's home.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Abuse is due to "the U.S. parole commission's colossal blunders," a lawyer says
  • Federal authorities oversaw Phillip Garrido's parole between 1988 and 1999
  • He and his wife abducted Jaycee Dugard in 1991 and held her 18 years
  • Dugard's representative claims, in a release, that feds rejected two private mediation requests

(CNN) -- Jaycee Dugard filed a complaint against the federal government Thursday, seeking compensation for what she called its failures to track the man who held her captive for 18 years.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday morning in the U.S. District Court for Northern California. This comes after the U.S. government "summarily rejected" two requests from Dugard "for private mediation in the case," according to a press release from Nancy Seltzer and Associates, a Los Angeles-based public relations firm that represents the long-time kidnap victim.

The U.S. Justice Department had no immediate comment Thursday, as it had not seen and thus did not know the details of the complaint, said spokesman Charles Miller.

Dugard was 11 years old in 1991, when she was abducted from the street in front of her South Lake Tahoe, California, home. Phillip and Nancy Garrido held her and the two daughters she gave birth to in subsequent years in a hidden compound of sheds and tarpaulins until they were found in 2009.

Phillip Garrido was convicted in the 1970s of kidnapping a 25-year-old woman and keeping her in a storage shed in Reno, Nevada, where he repeatedly raped her. He spent 11 years of his sentence in a Leavenworth, Kansas, federal penitentiary, then went to a halfway house and eventually was allowed to live with his mother at her Antioch, California, home.

How police just missed saving Jaycee

The federal government oversaw Phillip Garrido's parole from when he got out of custody in 1988 through 1999 -- including the date in 1991 when Dugard was kidnapped -- after which responsibility shifted to California authorities.

"For nearly the entirety of their lives, ... Dugard and her two daughters were held captive, abused and irreparably damaged by a deranged and maniacal felon, Phillip Garrido," the complaint begins.

The court document sharply criticizes the federal government for releasing Phillip Garrido originally from prison in 1988 as well for what it calls its "outrageous and inexcusable" handling of his case.

"Had federal parole authorities demonstrated a modicum of vigilance -- indeed, had they simply performed their duties and obligations as required by federal law and internal policies -- Jaycee and her daughters would not have been forced to endure a virtual lifetime of physical and mental abuse from a detonated 'time bomb,'" the complaint states.

No specific damages are requested in the complaint, and Dugard "is not seeking money for herself" -- as any funds would go to her non-profit The JAYC Foundation, which gives support and services to families recovering from abductions and other traumatic services -- said the press release.

"We believe that the years of abuse experienced by Ms. Dugard are a direct result of the U.S. parole commission's colossal blunders in the supervision of Mr. Garrido," Dale Kinsella, part of the law firm of Kinsella, Weitzman, Iser, Kump and Aldisert, which filed the complaint on behalf of Dugard, said in a statement.

A $20 million settlement was paid out in 2010 from the state of California. The press release on Dugard's behalf notes those funds were shared between her and her children, as well as used for legal and other expenses. Moreover, it states "the two governmental entities" -- meaning the state and federal governments -- "committed separate, distinct and consecutive acts of negligence."

This past April, the Garridos pleaded guilty in El Dorado Superior Court. A judge sentenced Phillip Garrido to 431 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to one count of kidnapping and 12 counts of sexual assault. Nancy Garrido got 36 years to life in prison for her role in the crimes, including kidnapping and one count of rape by force.

A few months later, in July, James Ware -- the chief federal judge for northern California, thus putting him in charge of the probation department there -- released a once-confidential report from the Administrative Office of the United States Court on Garrido's case.

It found no evidence that federal officers charged with overseeing Garrido over the years would have found Dugard by searching the premises. Still, the report called the handling of his case "clearly substandard" and symptomatic of larger problems.

"The Garrido case is a significant reflection of the deficient practices in the probation office in the northern district of California," the report said. "The office had a track record of inadequate supervision (and) serious deficiences in operations."

After arriving in Antioch, Garrido was "correctly categorized as a 'high risk' offender, (but) the probation office failed to supervise him accordingly."

The Administration Office said the case's poor management was unsurprising, as the same federal agency had concluded in 2000 that the northern California probation office's supervision of sex offenders was "poor."

CNN's Greg Botelho contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT